China leads decarbonisation charge ahead of Paris
China has cut coal consumption by 8% and CO2 emissions by 5% in the first four months of 2015.
Official figures, analysed by Greenpeace, suggest that the CO2 reduction could be equal to UK's entire emissions over same period. The reduction in coal use alone is equal to four times the UK's total consumption.
If the reduction continues until the end of the year, it will be the largest recorded year-on-year reduction in coal use and CO2 in any country, and could generate significant momentum for a global deal on emissions ahead of the Paris conference in December.
Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven said: “While China has historically been used as an excuse not to act on climate change, now we are beginning to see China as the example of why we should act on climate change.
“The drop in emissions from coal shows that the progress made on alternative energy and energy efficiency is beginning to kick in. While some of the drop may be caused by slower GDP growth, the majority is clearly government action to curtail coal use and rebalance the economy.”
China has already taken advantage of its newfound legitimacy, issuing a joint statement with India, calling on wealthy countries to provide finance, technology and other necessary support to emerging countries to help reduce their emissions.
Both countries said they would submit their plans to cut emissions well before the Paris conference. China has pledged to peak emissions by 2030, while India has yet to set a target.
China’s coal reductions has also led experts to re-examine the UK’s energy network, which still relies on coal for a third of its electricity.
In an exclusive interview with edie this week, former Climate Minister Greg Barker said: “There is still far too much coal on the system in the UK and we’re not going to get it off the system just with clean energy alone in the short to medium-term.”
Barker suggested that shale gas could help bridge the gap to a more sustainable energy network.
“Provided you listen carefully to local communities and ensure there are strong local environmental safeguards in place, extracting more gas from domestic sources is an essential part of our medium-term carbon reduction commitment," he said.
“Gas is our ally. The responsible use of gas is going to be essential to drive down our carbon emissions. I’d much rather use UK natural gas than gas from Russia or elsewhere abroad.”
Barker’s opinion is a popular one in the Conservative Party, which may finally be able to go ‘all out for fracking’ now it wields a majority in Parliament.